BACKSTAGE: THE INSIGHT, WE AS AUDIENCE ARE DEPRIVED OF!
BY AAKASH WADHWA
The heading may not be self explanatory but to light the burners termed as curiosity I would mention that this article will review the memoir of one of the best economists INDIA has ever had Montek Singh Alhuwalia, BACKSTAGE. Well, if you’re listening to the name for the first time I will probably blame your quintessential millennial intellect that cares the least about the state of affairs in their own country, cascading the whole attention onto westren cultures. “I would rather be an aware citizen, and if an opportunity were to arise where I would have to make a statement, I would happily do that.” quotes the Mahanayak Mr Bachhan. Bragging off our Iphones, foreign brands, receiving gifts from our siblings abroad and developing westren tastes, what we forget to acknowledge is the contributions of some great statesmen towards economic freedom or the second independence of India. Generation X very well knows what it’s like to grow in so called ‘license Raj’ or amongst no foreign goods. This annal of India’s high growth period and years of economic independence is a narrative account from a distinguished civil servant sincerely leading from behind! Or the planning commission!
It always fills me with great patriotism whenever I read or learn about someone who has put down a foreign attractive job profile for serving the nation, former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh being the ideal example. The book opens up on the same note illustrating how the writer first graduated from DU and then went on for higher studies to Oxford university where from his exceptional performance landed him in world bank, from where he gained unexampled experience to serve the nation in 1979. The book is divided into 4 parts, first one dealing with his personal journey from India to US and then back to India, second one with the years prior to 1991 reforms of LPG, the third one starting off with 1991 reforms and various anomalies in the indian system that prompt action only when it is utmost needed meanwhile Alhuwalia went to serve in the IMF as Director of newly set up independent evaluation office(IEO), the last part of it deals with India’s transition from a low income country to a lower level middle income country and the years of UPA alliance.
The language used is implicitly economical and use of classic macroeconomic terminologies is silked throughout the book, one with a non-economic background may find it difficult to comprehend the real idea of the book without google. However, the book is guaranteed to answer some of the obvious questions of the mind, How policies are adopted? How does the government work with such a large amount of deficit? How do situations arising public outrage surface? Who is controlling the markets and prices? How do reforms like Aadhaar, GST, Demonetisation, etc. are formed? The behind the media modus operandi of the central govt.? How the 2000 unrest was overcome? How big companies like SATYAM are restructured by the government? Are Centre-state relations as good as Tom Jerry? The contrast between civil servants and political servants? Are freebies of government really freebies? Is the USA a mere opportunist? What did China do extra to achieve exponential growth?Etc. many other doubts that cloud the mind when one thinks of the governmental functioning. Since it is a narrative, it maintains a soft corner towards the UPA government under which Mr. Singh served and towards the epilogue the book becomes quite biased and if you’re so called bhakt or pro BJP the memoir might start hurting you towards the end.
In a nutshell or milking the essence of the whole review I will only quote that the audience need to know for what they’re paying the price of their vote and the book aids us to acquaint with BACKSTAGE!
Some remarkable reviews
In this captivating book, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a key player for over three decades in Indian economic reforms, gives us an intimate portrait of the thinking behind the decisions, the personalities that drove them, and the political and bureaucratic challenges in carrying them out. This authoritative narrative is suffused with the wit and wisdom of one of India’s great economic reformers. It will be valuable for anyone interested in the larger political economy of India’s development, as well as those who are curious about what it is like to work in the government of the world’s largest democracy.
—Raghuram Rajan, former governor of the Reserve Bank of India
This book, by the ideator of Eximscrips, is quintessentially Montek—gentle, honest, rational, clear in thought, a liberalizer, objective and subtly humorous. The M Document described in the book and authored by Montek, is the first integrated approach by a government economic policy specialist in independent India’s history towards attaining accelerated growth of our economy, based on an efficient and accountable public governance system providing public goods, and a well-regulated, globally competitive free-enterprise system supplying private goods. This book is unputdownable and is a must-read for anybody interested in a ringside view of the history of economic policy of India during the last forty years.
—N.R. Narayana Murthy, founder, Infosys